Getting Done

To be honest, I’ve been having a lot of trouble these last couple of years. Much of it is my own doing of course. Writing is challenging, and in so I certainly make many attempts to skirt away from the task, even as I am obsessed by it. Besides that it has led me to many days where writing was either non-existent or sub-par, I’ve now ended up with a number of projects that are just… stalled. That needs to change.

As with many writers, I have grandiose plans when it comes to projects. As I daydream about the possibilities ahead of getting in front of keys or a pen and paper, the realist in me understands that to accomplish this, there needs to be an equal amount of discipline and work to the grandness of the dream. When it comes time to put that work in, I falter— no surprise— only getting a meager amount of work done. Improvement is in the works, yet even still it pays to have a more realistic understanding of what I can get done.

Given that I am indie, meaning that I either have to foot the bill or foot the time for each step in the process, each project is a mountain of work. I cannot say, write a first draft and then hand it off to the process of a traditional publisher and then forget about the rest (as but one example of the many levels of a writer’s involvement in the process of traditional publishers). Add on the fact that I work full-time elsewhere and have a family, it further limits the time I can dedicate towards the process. It’s not so much of an excuse, but a fact to come to terms with.

Now the problem isn’t so much that I am not achieving the output that is being conjured up in those daydreams, it’s that I haven’t published anything in 4 years. There’s no output. Nothing. There was a lot of talk of projects being ready. They’ve sat though, collecting dust in a manner of speaking. What is it that I am waiting for?

Over the years, I’ve learned to stop talking about these projects. Given that they end up delayed for any number of reasons, talking about them without having the corresponding discipline to finish them in the time promised is futile. Discouraging is another way to put it. Thus, the practice of making promises has started to wane. The goal is to show up and do the work. And I am learning to do that.

Indie writers with track records of success are the ones who publish regularly— like 4+ times a year. Even those with a modicum of success publish at least yearly. Not me. I’ve published once in 4 years. Now it is looking like it’ll be once every 5 years. This has to change.

There’s a lot of things that go into finishing a book. Writing and finishing a draft is the first step (as a pantser— outlines and plans otherwise would be the first step). That’s the easiest part, honestly. Next is revisions/edits. That’s tougher. It’s all self-directed, which isn’t ideal, but doable depending on how honest one wants to be with themselves… or how precious we writers can get with what we write. The financial ability to have it edited through a third party is the target, but it has not come to fruition yet, so it remains self directed. And that takes time. Then there’s the other things. Formatting— well, that I am actually good at. I am skilled sufficiently at Word to do that with effect. The cover is the last major bit, and I suck at that. I can make a basic cover, one that is simple. Those beautifully illustrated covers though? Nope.
Then there’s a ton of smaller tasks too. I’ll skip them for the sake of this article.

While this sounds like a lot of complaining, the purpose is more to work through what I want and how I want to do it.

I think back to my novel, “The Good Teacher”. It took me probably 10 or more years to write what is effectively bordering the line between novel and novella. I rewrote it and edited it like a dozen times along with others helping. That’s 10 years being stuck in the process. Finally, the idea of good enough came to pass and I published it. Is it great? No. Is it bad? No. It’s firmly in the OK category in my opinion as the writer. Time could have been saved if the decision to throw it into the market came sooner.

Based off what I assert with my experience with “The Good Teacher”, it is worth asking myself how much energy should be put into each project. Things that need to be considered: how precious am I about the writing? When is a project good enough? Am I willing to play towards strengths and not concern myself with things I can yet afford? A good way to think of that last question is with covers… if I am good with simple covers, why not then keep them simple?
What is forgotten often as an indie writer is the ability to go back and fix the problems… even post publishing. Edits and revisions are as simple as uploading a new file. Covers can be redone a thousand times over if needed. Extreme as the example is, it illustrates the point.

It’s not to justify putting out garbage. No writer wants to put out garbage; we might simply have a warped idea of what is good. What I am looking for, at least until I can manage a point where I can afford otherwise, is a point where what I put out is good enough. No grandiose plans. No lavish covers. Simple. Effective. And as I get better as a writer— by producing more and thus practicing more— the quality should improve too.

Publishing 4 or more books a year might be a bit out of reach at the moment. First, like stated above, the work needs to start. And it has. Slowly. And that’s OK. It will be better.

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